Saturday, December 4, 2010

Various Philias and Phobias

Recent experiences with spiders have prompted me to outline another essay on philias and phobias. Spellcheck doesn't recognize "philias," but why not? If one can have arachnophobia, why not arachnophilia? In any case, it is really interesting to see the wide variety of reactions to spiders among people of all ages who accompany me on nature walks. This morning I had the opportunity to show a lady friend the Black Widow spider that appeared on this blog yesterday. We've kept it in a jar for a while to watch it feed and to observe its behavior. My friend likes spiders, and, it was with her in mind that I named my recent framed group of six spider photos "Arachnophilia." More often, I encounter arachnophobes. There are a few species that can be deadly, but the reactions of many people to all sorts of harmless bugs, not just spiders, seem overblown. I'll be exploring what is known about the sources of these feelings in my essay. Meanwhile, here are a couple of new ones to enjoy.
On tmy way home from Greenville this morning, I stopped by one of my "milkweed spots." Yes, I took more milkweed photos, but I also spotted a new (to me) spider scurrying across a beautiful, moss-covered rock. The photos aren't real sharp as she was moving along quickly and it was a dark, gray day. When I got home I found this one in my John Muir Laws field guide. It's a Stealthy Ground Spider, Sergiolus columbianus. [The bottom two photos above.] The top photo was sent by my brother John who lives in Texas. I believe it's a Yellow Garden Spider, and we have them here in Quincy. When John and I were kids, we usually always lived on two to three acres and in our wooded back yards we spent hours turning over logs, boards, and rocks to see what critters we might discover. The red-backed salamander is one common creature that I never tired of uncovering. On a memorable hike up Mt. Monadnoc one spring we found the trail covered with hundreds of thee that were undoubtedly looking for mates. Those kinds of experiences were deeply felt: we both majored in zoology in college!
I'll give one preview comment about the essay I'm working on. That is, one of my college professors, the late Archie Carr, believed that some phobias, especially fear of snakes, might be in our DNA. He encountered people who lived around the Arctic Circle where no snakes are found who were terrified at the sight of a photograph of a snake. His hypothesis was that the fear was established before humans migrated out of Africa and became hereditary as a matter of survival in an area with many deadly snakes. In people who now live far from any harmful snakes, it's a vestigial trait. Interesting. Perhaps something similar is going with respect to spiders.

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